Matt Valdez ’13 lives six blocks from the house he grew up in, the house where his mother still lives. While this may be common in some cities, it’s less common in San Francisco, particularly for people of color and low-income families who have been driven out by the influx of tech, gentrification, and high housing prices.

“I’m very proud to be from San Francisco,” he says. “And I’m very much about trying to retain the cultural fabric that I grew up with.”

Valdez is in his third year as Associate General Counsel for the San Francisco Giants, a job that involves “a little bit of everything,” from event contracts to sponsorship deals to collective bargaining with employee unions and real estate development.

“I love that I get to work for my team,” he says. “I love that when I come to work every day, I get to work at the ballpark.”

The Candlestick Park of his youth is gone, and Valdez understands and even appreciates that change is inevitable for neighborhoods and cities and communities. But he refuses to believe that the San Francisco he grew up in is lost for good. He’s inspired by the vision of the late Nipsey Hussle, a rapper and entrepreneur who was in the process of “buying back” his Los Angeles neighborhood when he was killed earlier this year.

“A lot of people come here because it’s cool and there’s new innovation hubs and all that,” Valdez says of San Francisco, “but I think we need to create a space for the kids of color that are here to feel like they are supported and that they have the opportunity to remain here and flourish.”

Though he’s not currently planning to buy back any neighborhoods, Valdez does serve the kids in his community by volunteering his time and donating both money and memorabilia to Peer Resources, a leadership program in the San Francisco public school system. These peer leaders work all year to make systemic changes to eliminate barriers for a disenfranchised population within their schools. As a former participant and beneficiary of the program, Valdez is a testament to the power it has to change lives. It helped him through difficult times, and he now uses the opportunities he’s been given to inspire and support the students he works with.

“My background is not typical for someone who goes to law school and becomes a lawyer for a baseball team,” he says. “I can go into a classroom and say I grew up in the same neighborhood or I went through similar stuff, and now I’m a lawyer for the Giants. For a kid, that carries weight.”

About Gamechanger

GAMECHANGER is the way our students–past and present–see the world. It’s the impact our alumni have on local, national and global policy and law. The ideas and events that come from the minds of UC Law SF students and faculty help transform the world.